Many 20- and 30-somethings are looking for “the one.”
And regardless of whether they exist in such a way, the idea of entering a relationship has become so romanticized that a casual date can lead to thoughts of wedding bells.
Before you enter a relationship, in fact, before you set foot on the dating scene, you need to consider what qualities and attributes God wants for you in a life partner. And we’re not talking physical attributes like “blond hair, blue-eyed, 6-foot-1-inch tall worship leader with an attractive amount of stubble.”
We’re talking deal-breakers that will define a relationship and, should you choose to marry that person, your life.
If you’re already in a relationship, how you deal with differences in core values may vary due to the unique nature of each couple. However, if you’re single, there are some baseline non-negotiables to wrap your head around before you enter a relationship.
We’ve all read the verse that says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) To be honest, we’ve all questioned it at least once. So it begs the question: What does it really mean to be “equally yoked” in a relationship?
It’s not as simple as finding out whether someone is a Christian or not. It’s about how this is expressed in their life. Do they have a relationship with Jesus? Can you see good fruit coming from their life that reflects their intimacy with God? And does their behavior line up both outside of church and in Christian circles?
These may be hard questions to answer—especially when you’re interested in someone—but it’s best to determine what being “equally yoked” means to you before you are swept up in romance and a deal-breaker becomes a “maybe.”
Make your mind up about sex before you begin exploring these boundaries, otherwise the decision is made for you. The Bible asks us to remain abstinent until marriage. (1 Corinthians 6: 18-20) In fact, it actually tells us to “flee sexual immorality,” so values around sex go further than just sleeping together.
You need to decide where “the line” is, and find someone who will respect this. You need to set up boundaries that will help you honor one another.
There’s so much to discuss in this area including sexual history, boundaries around pornographic images, sexting. Sexuality isn’t just about the physical but everything that engages that part of who we are.
Prayerfully consider what maintaining your purity looks like and seek someone who shares these values.
In most cases, it’s best to hold off on conversations about children until you know your relationship could be headed somewhere. However, it’s still essential to know if you want children. This will determine what sort of family values a potential partner must hold.
Consider the number of children you’d like to have (if any), and be certain on your views surrounding contraception, adoption and fertility treatments as well. Details and numbers can change over time, but your family values shouldn’t.
As you become more serious, details about how you want to raise a family will also become deal breakers. Psalm 22:6 instructs parents to “start children off on the way they should go.” Make sure you have a united front with the future parent of your children so you can direct and nurture them in God’s love.
Politics can seem secondary to life-altering decisions like getting married and having kids, but it still plays a role in a healthy relationship. Ask yourself: Is it important that a potential partner shares the same political views as you? Does this translate to how they choose to vote (if at all), and how would this impact your future children?
Beyond party lines, consider your views on abortion, same-sex marriage, global warming, incarceration and global injustice. You’ll want to agree with your future spouse on most, if not all, of these issues.
Jesus prayed that the church “may be one” just as He is in the Father (John 17: 21), and this goes for a relationship as well—it is essential a couple be united by their love for God. If politics is a contentious issue for you, then the ideology of a potential partner must match your own. Couples can, and will, disagree on things, but it’s essential they respect each other enough to allow for their differences and still stand united.
A healthy relationship of any sort is built on mutual respect. If someone doesn’t respect you with their words, behaviors and actions now, then chances are they won’t when you build a life together.
We are asked to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10), then it stands to reason that mutual respect is essential in marriage.
Be aware of your worth as a human being and as God’s child, and don’t be afraid to look for someone who will show this to you in a relationship. Your core beliefs around respecting yourself, others and the people you love will automatically filter out anyone who doesn’t value people or relationships in the same way.
It goes without saying that you deserve to be with someone who sees you as an equal—after all, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). However, knowing where you stand on gender roles will play a fundamental role in any future relationships you have.
Do your research and read books on the subject. I recommend The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland. Also pray, meditate on the Bible and talk about it with couples you respect.
Your stance on women’s and men’s roles in the church, home, workplace and during sex will ultimately dictate what sort of ideals and behaviors you are looking for in a partner. A couple can still function if they disagree on this, but there must be some sort of compromise as this will dictate every aspect of your life and your relationship.
Contrary to popular belief, a date over coffee doesn’t equate to marriage.
However, your values around marriage need to be identified early on in a relationship.
Do you want to get married? Is this something you want in your immediate future, or do you have plans to fly solo for a few years? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, someone else will answer them for you. This could lead to an environment of distrust, doubt and frustration that won’t just hurt you but also the person you’re dating.
Ultimately, marriage is about serving your spouse.
Husbands are asked to love their wives, and wives are asked to submit to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-27) This is no small privilege, so don’t rush yourself or compromise and rush into a covenant of sacrifice before you are ready to or just to meet the status quo.